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Hornets come up golden again

It might not have been an easy ride, but the final week of the season for Emmaus field hockey was wildly successful as the Lady Hornets came from behind to beat Conestoga in the PIAA semifinals and then made a lone goal stand up in the finals against Lower Dauphin to give themselves back-to-back state championships.

In the semifinals, The Pioneers took a first-quarter lead before Emmaus scored three unanswered goals to take a two-goal lead into the fourth quarter.

Malea Weber had only played in one Emmaus field hockey game before the state semifinal. But she’s already making her impact felt.

Weber scored a pair of goals and made the pass that led to another goal in a 3-1 win over Conestoga last Tuesday in a PIAA Class 3A semifinal at Central Bucks West High School.

“The first quarter was really slow-paced,” said Weber, who got the start Tuesday because the Hornets were without senior Kyleigh Faust due to COVID protocol. “Coach brought us in, told us that we could do it. She said just focus on how we’re used to playing. We all just went out there with a different mindset and we just wanted to score.”

In the finals, the Falcons put a human wall around Weber and contained her. They also did a good job of slowing down the Emmaus offense, but the Emmaus defense picked up any slack and shut down Lower Dauphin.

Both teams came out in front of loud, passionate fans who cheered with every move on the field, but the first 15 minutes were played without a goal and with neither team having many opportunities.

The same tempo continued in the second quarter, but with the defenses becoming even stronger. Late in the quarter, Emmaus mounted an attack and as the players scrambled in front of the goal, Ava Zerfass found an opening and put the ball past goalie Payton Killian for a 1-0 lead with 1:35 left to play before halftime.

“Coming up the field we had great teamwork and we were working it through the pockets and got the ball up the field,” said Zerfass. “We had a nice shot on goal and then their goalie cleared it and there was an open goal after the rebound.”

Both teams had come into the game unbeaten and nationally ranked. Lower Dauphin (23-1-1), ranked second in the country by MAX Field Hockey, battled Emmaus (28-0-0), the top ranked team in the country. The teams are also led by legendary coaches, with Emmaus coach Sue Butz-Stavin (1,015 wins) and Falcons coach Linda Kreiser (854 wins) having 90 years of coaching experience, there was a lot of strategizing to be done at halftime.

The teams came out playing more intensely in the third quarter, but neither team was able to take advantage of its opportunities and Zerfass’ goal stood up through the rest of the quarter, thanks in no small part to Emmaus goalie Emma Cari.

The sophomore goalie turned away three shots on goal in the third quarter alone and saved the best for last. With 35 seconds left in the quarter, Cari made a save and then had to instinctively react to a follow up shot to keep the Lady Falcons off the scoreboard.

“I realized that I didn’t get too much air on it when I made the save, so I just had a quick instinct when it came back,” Cari said. “It wasn’t in the goal yet and we got it cleared out. It was only a few inches from the line, so it was really close. I got a little tip on it and that’s all we needed. It was a pretty good save.”

The final 15 minutes saw the Hornets fighting off Lower Dauphin as the Falcons brought more attackers up the field in an effort to tie the game. With just 2:05 left to play, Emmaus lost Abby Burnett for two minutes when she was given a green card for a play in midfield. The Emmaus defense continued to fight off the pressure, but with under a minute left in regulation, Lower Dauphin was awarded a corner.

Time ran out during the corner, but rules stipulate that play should continue until the corner opportunity is completed. Cari again made a save and Lower Dauphin was unable to return any shots on goal and wound up pushing the ball across the end line to finish the corner and end the game.

“When you approach a season, you always set goals,” said Butz-Stavin. “You always want to compete for your conference championship, district championship and you want to be in the final two in states. Every game we know they’re going to be tough and they’re steppingstones. We preach to them all season long that it’s those early mornings, the tears, the sweat, the hardships. Those emotions all came out today, so I have to congratulate the team for their dedication.”

PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Emmaus won its 14th state championship in program history with a 1-0 win over Lower Dauphin Saturday.
PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Ava Zerfass receives her PIAA gold medal from head coach Sue Butz-Stavin. Zerfass scored the game's only goal Saturday.
PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Emmaus goal keeper Emma Cari made several critical saves in Saturday's state championship game.